Comparing Grasshopper (Orthoptera: Acrididea) communities on tallgrass prairie reconstructions and remnants in Missouri

Principle Investigators: Joseph P. Larose, Elisabeth B. Webb. and Deborah L. Finke

Institution and/or Affiliation: University of Missouri Division of Plant Science and the U.S. Geological Survey, Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Missouri. 

1. Tallgrass prairies, which once occupied a large swath of central North America, face the combined challenges of habitat loss and fragmentation. In Missouri,
where less than 1% of the historical prairie remains, prairies are being reconstructed from agricultural or wooded land.
2. Invertebrates are often assumed to colonize reconstructions if native vegetation returns; however, the limited mobility of many invertebrates, the isolation of many tallgrass remnants, and the difficulty in establishing prairie plants raise serious questions as to whether invertebrate communities on reconstructed prairies are and will be equivalent to those found on remnant prairies.
3. Grasshoppers (Acrididae) display a range of dispersal capabilities and may be valuable for assessing the success of prairie restoration for invertebrates.
4. Our first objective was to compare grasshopper communities on reconstructed and remnant prairies and, if differences existed, identify species or functional groups associated with each habitat type. The second objective was to evaluate the effect of time because prairie reconstruction on grasshopper communities to determine if communities on reconstruction are converging with communities on remnants.
5. Our results suggest that prairie reconstructions in Missouri do not support the same communities of grasshoppers as prairie remnants.
6. Grasshopper diversity was generally greater on remnants. Many species had not colonized nearby reconstructions.
7. Communities on prairie reconstructions were characterized by a few long-winged, generalist species that are typically successful in agroecosystems.
8. Further investigation into the habitat disparities driving low grasshopper diversity